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text 2020-09-06 03:56
Quite unexpectedly, and without warning...
The Local Rag - Rod Raglin

I write because I love to. Ask me what I’d like to do today and I’d say write. Sit down, by myself, and write. Sure, I like to do other things as well, but it’s one of my top three.

 

Still, some time’s it’s lonely being an indie author. It’s also frustrating – a lot. But every once in awhile, quite unexpectedly and without warning, something remarkable happens.

 

For example, this review by Thomas Dalcolle of my novel Local Rag. When I read it, I thought, is he describing something I wrote? Yes. He is. I wrote this! Though I must admit, I don’t remember it being quite as good he indicates.

 

What makes this most satisfying is, Thomas Dalcolle got it. In fact, he read more into my story than I intended, but that’s the thing about fiction, it can mean different things to different readers.

 

Here’s Thomas Dalcolle’s take on my novel, Local Rag. REVIEW OF LOCAL RAG by Thomas Dalcolle

 

HEADLINE; A local rag challenges the powerful; corpses start piling. Five well deserved stars.

 

After the index, the book displays a famous quote about truth and opinions from Marcus Aurelius—stoic philosopher and Roman emperor of the second century AD—, not quite a John Doe. But Jim Mitchell, journalist owner of a local rag in Vancouver, carries a very different creed. He believes in the presence and relevance of truth and is fully committed to the deontology of news journalism. Check the facts before publishing, then tell the truth without warping it anyhow.

 

The existence of a unique, accessible truth is here an unquestionable axiom. Moreover, “Jim considered unbiased, in-depth news coverage essential in a functioning democracy.” Which, depending on the definition of democracy, may contradict the premises. To his bad luck, Jim must soon realize that the mission of bringing all that irksome theory to reality seriously conflicts with the laws of profit, and with the legitimate aspiration to an ordinary, happy life.

 

In a particular way if this comprises a marriage with a sexy, rich, vain woman, daughter to a billionaire—owner of a giant multimedia company—and an interiors decorator driving a Porsche Boxster. But this is nothing, just a detail in the indecipherable, garbled puzzle of Jim’s life.

 

Jim is part of a trio of close friends, a sort of childhood soulmates club. The other two members are Frances, daughter to Chinese immigrants, and Tony from an Italian family. Jim, on his turn, though a native Canadian, had to bear another even bitter stigma, as the son of an alcohol-addicted father, and grown-up in dire poverty. The three friends, marginal individuals in the community of schoolboys, almost outcasts, help each other to overcome their condition of social seclusion.

 

Growing up, they conceive the dream of reforming the society into a more accessible and inclusive one. In their ideal society, everybody, not only the natives and the millionaires, may aspire to a political career and even become a leader.

 

At the time of the facts, Frances, the inspirational soul and moral guide to the group, is a successful lawyer and is supporting Tony—already a town’s counselor—in his electoral campaign for the post of Mayor.

 

The story goes that Frances, despite the friendship and loyalty to Tony has turned to a secret intimate relationship—Tony is already married—investigates his campaign supporters and discovers wrongdoing. Frances collects evidence and calls on Jim, in the hope he may pressure Tony to take distance from his principal supporter, a notable member of the local Indian community. The man, called Brar, behind the mask of a successful entrepreneur, is a real thug involved in fraudulent real estate projects, international drug smuggling, as well as human trafficking.

 

In a confrontation that goes physical, Tony tells Jim plainly that Brar is the only one who can grant him enough preferences to win the Mayoralty race, and that he doesn’t mean to drop his dream of a life. He’s ready to prosecute it whatever it may cost, with genuine Machiavelli's tactics. The premises for the frontal clash are set up. Jim, covertly sustained by Frances, threatens Tony to publish the evidence of Brar’s wrongdoings on his local magazine and to expose the advantages that the thug plans to gather from Tony’s election to Mayor.

 

After that, the killing begins. First, a witness of Brar’s drug smuggling disappears and is then found dead on the city river’s banks. Then the same Frances, who holds an affidavit from the murdered witness, disappears from her flat, which appears as the theater of a butchery. Jim is sure that Tony has personally killed Fran. There are clues and circumstantial evidence in that direction, even though no conclusive proof. To make things worse, Frances’ body, as well as the incriminating affidavit, are nowhere to be found.

 

Jim swears he won’t let Tony go away with what he’s done. He’ll use his only weapon, his local rag, putting himself on the line of fire. I won't say more to avoid spoilers. I only add that, in the end, Local Rag should appear to the careful reader much more than a well-designed, masterly written, and realistic murder mystery.

 

Local Rag is, in my opinion, a philosophical parable on the ultimate meaning of truth in our earthly lives. The last pages will clarify the individual relevance of the initial Aurelian quote in this story. By the way, the closing image of the book is a powerful visual allegory about where humanity as a whole is heading fast, if not for a sharp change of route. Just don't jump to the end of the book to decipher these allusions. You'd remain baffled. The only way is to follow the characters all along their troubling adventure.


 

LOCAL RAG is available from Amazon. Visit

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

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text 2020-06-21 22:37
Non-book post: Knives Out is on Prime now!

It's apparently been on Prime for a little over a week now. I haven't been using my streaming services much lately and hadn't noticed. Anyway, I rewatched it, and it was just as enjoyable the second time around. I got to worry less about Marta and just pay attention to how all the pieces came together.

 

If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend it if you're into traditional mysteries. Two bits of warning: there's on-screen vomiting (the one during the Big Reveal is so gross I just shut my eyes during both my first and second viewing) and one scene in which a spider walks across a person's face.

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review 2020-04-14 06:00
Review: The Silent House by Nell Pattison
The SIlent House - Nell Pattison

***I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Avon Books!***

 

There are not many books out there that feature main characters who are deaf or hearing impaired. That is what initially drew me to this book. I took a few years of American Sign Language in my younger years and had interest in becoming an interpreter at one point, so I spent a lot of time within the community. It’s a completely unique perspective on the world so I was interested to see a murder mystery done from this viewpoint.

 

The author did not disappoint. It was very apparent that she is highly familiar with the deaf and hearing impaired community. She is aware of how the community is viewed in society and the ways that people believe they might be helping butthey are actually hindering communication. I was very impressed with how well the author translated those ideas into the book..

 

The story was also very well told and nicely paced. I enjoyed the alternate viewpoints of various suspects prior to the murder followed by some chapters in the present with the investigation. This helped me to start coming to some conclusions about what I thought happened, while progressing with the investigation too. All of the suspects were given plausible reasons for why they could have been the murderer. Frankly, even though I had my own idea about who it was, I would have found any of the suspects believable if I had been wrong. I did end up guessing the murderer correctly, but not the twist. That shook me. I was stunned. I stayed up far later than my bedtime to finish the book because I had to know the rest. That’s how much it shocked me.

 

The only flaw with the story is that I felt we paid too much attention to Paige personally. Following her difficulties with men and her personal struggles with the investigation hindered the rest of the story at certain points.

 

Overall it was an engaging story that is told from a unique perspective. I loved it.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-03-27 04:51
Review: Don't Look Down by Hilary Davidson
Don't Look Down - Hilary Davidson

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer!***

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I did not read the entire book. I read to 150 pages and I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. Reading it was painful and I just couldn’t do it. And since I am about 98% sure I know how it’s going to end, there really wasn’t much to keep me reading any further.

 

This book is just not good. It’s not a good character story nor is it a good police procedural. I am not an expert in the law or police procedure, by any means, however I have read enough books and watched enough Law & Order that I know how these types of books should work. I have a basic understanding of the law and how it works and this was not even close to being accurate. This case would get thrown into the nearest paper shredder and the detectives would be berated in open court to handle a case this way.

 

Also, consider this your ***SPOILER WARNING***

 

Three prime examples that the author has zero idea how the police actually function:

 

- The detectives go to the office of a suspect and state that they need to speak with said suspect, the fill-in receptionist advises that the suspect is not there but her office is that way so feel free to wait. Apparently this is a good enough cause for the detectives to search the suspect’s office. They do not have a warrant. They have not obtained permission unless you count the receptionist and yet they snoop through everything and decide to obtain a warrant for the suspect’s home once they find something. That is called an unlawful search and any evidence obtained in said search is automatically inadmissible in court, except in this book.

  • - They go search the suspect’s home and find her boyfriend there, they do not escort the boyfriend outside or to a specific place while they conduct the search. He just follows them around from room to room, offering an opinion on what they find and being asked leading questions about their investigation. Apparently in this book a search warrant also means that you get to search anything in the home and seize anything you feel like. That isn’t how search warrants work. Typically search warrants indicate exactly what sort of evidence you believe that you will find or that you believe is relevant to the investigation. For example, a murder weapon, belongings of the victim, etc. You don’t just get to snoop and seize things on a whim because they might pertain to your investigation. Also, one of the uniform police officers is asked to crack open a safe. Which he does, in just a few minutes. Is safe cracking a typical skill for a beat cop?
  • - When they find the suspect they are unconscious from blood loss. The suspect is taken to the hospital for treatment after being placed under arrest. The detectives then literally have a conversation of “Do you think we have to Mirandize her again? I don’t think it counts if they’re unconscious.” No, it doesn’t count. But apparently this is also a book that a suspect is taken into custody after suffering a gunshot wound that has left them unconscious from blood loss and they are expected in court the next day to be arraigned.

Also, on to another rant. This felt like a social justice rant. Every other page you have the African American detective making some observation about how awful things are for minorities in New York City and how wonderful white people have things. For example, “That’s assuming that the DA will arraign a wealthy white woman for possession of an illegal firearm, which isn’t likely.” Spare me. In case Ms. Davidson hadn’t noticed, she is white. And lecturing the reader about racial injustice. Personally, I am so white that I practically glow in the dark so I understand that I have very little perception of what minorities in this country experience on a day to day basis. I found it condescending for a white woman to be lecturing about the plight of another race. A plight that she does not understand.

 

Finally, this story is predictable. I knew how this was going to go by page fifty. All it took was one line (not a direct quote, I can’t be bothered to find it again), “If I had to pinpoint my blackmailer I would have said Lori in a second, but Lori had been dead for eighteen months.” Well there you have it folks. Two possibilities. Either Lori is not really dead and exacting revenge for some past slight. Or Lori is actually dead and someone close to her is exacting revenge for some past slight. I really don’t need to slog through 300 more painfully bad pages to find out that the ending is exactly what I think it is.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-03-20 05:21
Review: IM by Rick R Reed
IM - Rick R. Reed

***I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and NineStar Press.***

 

This book has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more relevant as the idea of social networking and hook up culture gains ever more steam. It plays on a lot of fears that people have. One side is spurring you on a hormonal rush to an anonymous lover, the other is wondering just how do you know the person you’re meeting isn’t a psycho?

 

Ultimately, the book had it’s good points but it wasn’t done very well. The characterizations had a lot of inconsistencies, the story had gaping plot holes and the entire ending was written in a way that confused me as to what was going on.

One of the good things in this book was Peter. I really enjoyed him. I found him funny, sardonic and at times wise beyond his years. His romance with Ed was very sweet. I was rooting for the two of them because they were both nice guys that desperately wanted a relationship more meaningful than just hooking up.

 

I also really enjoyed that this book didn’t shy away from the depravity within its pages. Sometimes when an author feels uncomfortable writing something dark they tend to do a “fade to black” just when things are getting serious. I always admire an author that has the courage to see the depravity through. As an amateur writer myself I have written scenes that made myself feel ill and they are really hard to write. I was uncomfortable reading this book, so well done to the author.

 

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over some big things with the book. The first problem was the ever growing cast of narrators. Virtually every other chapter was “Meet Guy 2, he’s lonely and wants to hook up with a dude from online. He is wary that the person won’t be anything like they described themselves. Ahhh, he’s going to kill me.” Then the killer kills them and we move on to a chapter about Ed being frustrated with finding a killer. It got repetitive and boring, and the constant shuffling of narrators who were subsequently killed made it difficult to connect with the story emotionally. It’s hard to get an emotional investment in a character who is only around for ten pages.

 

There was also a very huge problem with the characterization of the killer. Sometimes he is portrayed as a victim of abuse and neglect, getting back at the homosexual world that had so richly abused him over the years. Then other times we’re treated to narratives about him being a psychopath and torturing animals as a child, or torturing lovers because the pain is a turn on. Those two things don’t really mix very well. Which one is he? I had a hard time reconciling both in my head as being the same person. Violent psychopaths typically don’t make for very easy victims.

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs contain some minor spoilers.

 

 

 

A few of the big plotholes took away from the story for me too. First, the circumstances that Ed finds himself in with his job were weird. It literally made no sense and was never explained. Ed gets fired for allegedly “fabricating” the witness who discovered the first body. They allege that he had no witnesses so he made one up to make it seem like he had a lead. But here’s the problem. The witness was seen by several people. Several other people talked to him before Ed even arrived. When Ed arrived, he is directed to the witness by one of those people. But then the person is just too upset about the crime scene to remember clearly? That was very weakly done. There are plenty of options for having Ed be terminated through crooked means but this was just dumb.

 

I had a big problem with exactly how the killer seemed to be a full head (or more) shorter than everyone he killed, but it wasn’t a problem. He is described as “elfin” about a thousand times. He’s so short that he sometimes can’t be seen through peepholes. But yet, he physically overpowers and kills multiple men who are larger, more athletic and stronger than him. How does that happen? I have no idea. All the book told me is that he does. It’s not explained how that happened at all.

 

The ending was really confusing. I was being told about a lot of things happening at once and the way it was written made it all seem jumbled. All of a sudden Ed would be jumping up to attack the killer and I was thinking “Wait, but wasn’t the killer over by the door? How did he get here all of a sudden?” I started to skim it for the high points because I just didn’t follow it.

 

I think there are a lot of good bones to this book. The writing shows a lot of talent and the idea is a good one. It really needs a good edit or two.

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